Reflecting on 2016 – Gifts, lessons and opportunities

I intended to share this post closer to the beginning of the year. I wasn’t able to because my post marathon recovery and subsequent planning for 2017 took much longer than expected. However, better late than never. In 2007, I adopted a framework to reflect on the previous year and to (sort of) assess the future. The framework is a cumulative assessment of three questions:  (i) What is the best gift I have ever received; (ii) What is my best lesson so far; and (iii) What biggest opportunity lies ahead. Since I began performing this exercise, my answer for best gift has not changed. The answer for most important lesson has changed once. The answer for largest opportunity changes all the time due to the dynamic nature of my opportunity set and occasional changes in the rank of priorities.

  • Best Gift: The best gift I have received is being part of a large family. I have six siblings. My childhood environment was training ground for key skills that have been critical to my career:
    1. Teamwork – Competing for scarce resources fosters skills required for teamwork such as: Compromise – How to navigate commercial breaks to simultaneously watch two TV shows; Guile – Where to hide the remote ahead of your favorite show; Sharing – Everything
    2. I am my brother’s keeper – As the oldest sibling, I have had the opportunity to share real adult responsibility for my siblings’ welfare. As a unit, we’ve also learned to unconditionally look after, challenge and defend each other
    3. Relationships – My siblings are also my friends and the best joys and pains of my life are from sharing in their successes and failures
  • Best Lesson: I learned in 2009, during a high-stress project to always and “relentlessly stay on the side of value”. I was part of a team appointed by the CEO of one of our investment banking business units to execute a large transaction for his group. The corporate group that was (technically) responsible for such transactions was not too thrilled with this breach of hierarchy. The leader of the corporate group “replied all” to an email sent by my direct manager with vicious personal attacks on my team. My manager printed out the letter, highlighted what he thought were legitimate concerns, and organized a conference call to address them. He never once discussed the personal attacks. Later, over a drink, he elaborated to me the principle of alignment with value. Aligning oneself with value purifies motive and clears conscience. Alignment with value is what enables me today to stomach tough criticism without taking things personal and to deliver negative feedback without guilt.
  • Biggest Opportunity: For the last two years, career development has been my highest priority and my opportunity has been to nurture a set of skills that allow me to add real value to entrepreneurs that my organization partners with. The greatest satisfaction from this experience is that the education, exposure and experience I acquire only reveal how much farther I can go. Larger lands are available for conquering!